First Lesson: Acts 10: 34-43
Responsive Reading: Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24
Second Lesson: Colossians 3: 1-4
Gospel Lesson: John 20: 1-18
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing”.- Fredrick Buchner
Paul Harvey tells the following story. There once was a Boston preacher named S.D. Gordon. One day, Dr. Gordon places a beat up rusted out birdcage right next to the pulpit. He then began to tell the story of the birdcage.
One day a young boy with a disheveled appearance of about ten years old was walking up an alley carrying this birdcage when he encounters Dr. Gordon. Dr. Gordon sees several tiny birds were shivering on the floor of this birdcage. Dr. Gordon begins talking to the boy.
He asks, “Where did you get these birds?”
The boy replies “I trapped them.”
“What are you going to do with these birds?”- asked Dr. Gordon
“I’m going to play with them.” -said the boy
Dr.Gordon knowing the attention span of a lot of ten-year-old children then asks “Well, what are you going to do once you get tired of playing with them?”
The boy thinks for a moment then answers “I have cats at home, I can just feed these birds to my cats?”
Dr. Gordon didn’t like this plan, so he makes an offer “Son, how much do you want for these birds and the cage?”
The boy is surprised at the offer. The boy explains “Mister; no one would want these birds, they’re just ratty old field birds that can’t even sing.”
Dr. Gordon was unmoved by the boy's arguments, only to respond “Just tell me what you want for these birds?”
The boy starts hemming and hawing. The boy finally decides the birds are worth “two dollars.”
Dr. Gordon reaches into his wallet, gives the boy two dollars, and he would never see the boy again.
Dr. Gordon then took the birdcage aside, tapped on it, and encouraged the birds to leave on their way to freedom. So as soon as Dr. Gordon explains the origins of the birdcage, he starts telling what seemed to be a separate story.
One time, Jesus was talking to the Devil. The Devil starts boasting about how one day in the Garden of Eden he had set a trap, the trap worked like a charm, pretty soon the Devil had nearly the whole wide world in his cage. Jesus wanted to know what the Devil was going to do with all these people in his cage. The Devil starts boasting of all the things he’s going to do with these people for his amusement.
Jesus says “Well, what you are going to do when you’re tired of these people.”
Satan says “They’re pretty worthless. I’ll damn them and kill them.”
Jesus’ reply is “How much do you want for them?”
Satan starts to laugh. “You can’t be serious?” “If I sell them, they’re just gonna spit on you and hate you.” “They will eventually hammer nails into you, these people I tell you are no good.”
Jesus says to Satan “How much?”
Satan finally says “It’s going to cost you your life?”
Jesus says “Done?”
Jesus takes the cage from Satan and begins to open the door setting free every last one of Satan’s prisoners.
You see the whole point of Easter is this. Jesus one day was talking to a woman named Martha. Martha was mad that she had recently lost her brother. Martha asked Jesus what the fate of my brother is?
Jesus said to Martha, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live ‘-John 11:25.
Jesus promised Martha that her brother would soon walk out of the grave and that everything she thinks she knows about death will soon be proven wrong as Jesus walks out of his own grave.
Today’s Gospel Lesson from John 20 tells this story. It’s the conclusion of a tale that seems as unsettling as the little birds being trapped and fed to cats. Jesus is betrayed to the authorities by one of his closest followers. His best friend denies knowing him three times. Many of his other followers stand idly by as he gets beaten and eventually suffers death on a cross. Pretty soon just like Dr. Gordon and the Birdcage, the whole story gets totally turned upside down with reports of Christ walking out of death’s seemingly unpenetrable cage.
Easter is not easy. Easter’s claims should be hard for us to grasp as Christian people. Easter seemingly stands in contrast to every life experience that we’ve previously had. Easter redefines your world.
The message of Easter was quite well summed up by Catholic Priest James Martin when he says:
“The message of Easter is, all at once, easy to understand, radical, subversive and life-changing. Easter means that nothing is impossible with God. Moreover, that life triumphs over death. Love triumphs over hatred. Hope triumphs over despair. And that suffering is not the last word. Easter says, above all, that Jesus Christ is Lord.”
The whole of the Christian faith rests on whether Easter is true? Easter says you’re experiences of death appearing to be the final verdict, isn’t the way it’s going to all work out in the end.
Mary Magdalene didn’t believe in Easter as she approaches Jesus’ tomb on that Sunday morning. She sees an empty tomb and assumes the body to be stolen. The Disciples are so confused by this scene, they throw up their hands and return home upset at the grave-robbers.
Mary Magdalene though in one moment has her whole perspective on the world change.
She turns around and sees a man, confused at first about his identity because of the belief that the dead stay dead. She finally hears this man’s voice call her by name “Mary.” Mary Magdalene was now a believer in Resurrection!
Jesus had kept his promise to Martha upon the death of her brother Lazarus. Jesus is announcing that pretty soon he will empty the cage of death, which Satan currently possesses.
The promise of Resurrection is that life shall never be the same again, once you encounter it.
I began this morning with the story of a young boy, and let me close this morning with the story of a different young boy named Phillip.
Phillip was born with Down Syndrome and all sorts of other medical issues. When Phillip was born, the doctors thought he wouldn’t survive infancy, but Phillip amazed them by making it to the age of 8.
Eventually, Phillip enrolls in Sunday school Class. Phillip was an outcast in Sunday school as a result of his differences.
The week before Easter the Sunday school teacher Miss Miller gave out an assignment. She handed each student a plastic Easter egg. She wanted the children to fill the egg in the next week with something that represented Resurrection and new life. The kids were to show their eggs on Easter Sunday. The kids started blabbing to each other about what they were going to put in their egg, all the while Phillip sat by himself off in the corner.
Easter Sunday arrives, Miss Miller asks for the children to bring forth their eggs. Miss Miller decides that she’s going to open the eggs one by one without identifying who the egg belonged to? She feared the kids might laugh at Phillip.
First egg she picks up inside is a small flower. Miss Miller gushes with joy: “Flowers that bloom in the spring represents new life.”
Second egg she picks up inside is a blade of grass. Miss Miller gushes again.
The third egg sees a butterfly fly out. Now the students are cheering; Miss Miller can’t believe how well the assignment is going.
Then she opens up the fourth egg; the egg is empty. Miss Miller fears that this is Phillip’s egg and he failed to understand the assignment. She tries to quickly discard the egg, without any of the other students making fun of Phillip.
Phillip though raises his hand. At first Miss Miller tries ignoring him, and then Phillip in a rare show of boldness speaks up. “Miss Miller, you didn’t explain my egg?”
Miss Miller looks confused. “Phillip, your egg is empty!” She was dreading, the other children laughing at Phillip.
To which Phillip says “It’s empty just like Jesus’ tomb.” The room goes silent, tears come to the Miss Miller’s eyes as she had a realization just like Mary Magdalene at the tomb. Miss Miller realized that it was her that didn’t understand the assignment.
Phillip’s life because of his Easter egg was different from that day forward. His classmates now took him in as a peer. Philip had been set free from the cage previously created by his differences.
Phillip would lose his life later that summer. Here’s what happened at Phillip’s funeral though. His whole Sunday school class went. They sat together at the service. During the service, they got up each holding their Easter eggs and laid right beside Phillip’s tomb a whole bunch of empty Easter eggs. Phillip’s death certainly wasn’t going to have the last word in his life.
The tomb is empty on this day!!!
He is risen! He is risen indeed! Amen
 There are a few variations of this story. One version has the preacher being a New England Reverend named George Thomas.
 Harvey, Paul. “Paul Harvey Delivers a Powerful Easter Message.” GodTube. 2013. Web. Apr.12.2017.
 Harvey, Paul. “Paul Harvey Delivers a Powerful Easter Message.”
 John 20:1-18.
 Zahl, David. “The Difference Between Christmas and Easter.” Mockingbird Ministries (MBird). 29.Mar.2016. Web. Apr.12.2017.
 Zahl, David. “The Difference Between Christmas and Easter.”
 Martin, James. “The Challenge of Easter.” Wall Street Journal. 26.Mar.2016. Web. Apr.12.2017.
 The story of Phillip and the Easter egg is told in a few different formats. This telling is based on Steven Brandt’s explanation.
 Brandt, Steven. “Inspirations- The Empty Egg.” Drums In The Deep. 27.Mar.2010. Web. Apr.12.2017.
 Brandt, Steven. “Inspirations- The Empty Egg.”
Brandt, Steven. “Inspirations- The Empty Egg.”
 Brandt, Steven. “Inspirations- The Empty Egg.”
 Stories for Preaching. “Phillip’s Egg.” Stories For Preaching. Web. Apr.12.2017.